Parsha Halacha

Parshat Tazria/Parshat HaChodesh
Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Nissan

The Fall of Geichazi

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In the Torah portion of Tazria we find the laws of tzora’at, an ancient skin disease similar to leprosy. The Talmud[1] lists several sins for which one may be punished with this disease, one of them being stinginess. This is derived from the verse regarding tzora’at of the houses that says, “Then he that owns the house… tells the kohen…”[2] The implication is that this person only used the house for himself. This is referring to one who does not invite guests into his home as well as to one who does not lend his utensils to others.[3]
The Chatam Sofer[4] explains that even a poor person is expected to share his house despite the fact that there appears to be no room for guests. He explains that the greater holiness there is in a particular place, the more that space “expands” and has the capacity to hold more people. Specifically:
  •  The Talmud recounts that there were parts of the land of Israel which expanded and made room for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants during the Temple era. When the people were exiled however, that same space “contracted” and could not even fit that number of reeds.[5]
  • During the pilgrimages to the Beit HaMikdash for the three major Yamim Tovim, the city of Yerushalayim expanded to allow for the entire (male) population of the land of Israel. At that time no one complained that Yerushalayim was too crowded and that there was no room to sleep there.[6]
  • When the people who were crowded into the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash and they needed to bow on Yom Kippur, there was miraculously room for all of them.[7]
  • When the Jewish people crossed the Jordan river with Yehoshua, the Midrash says that all of the Jewish people fit between the two staves of the Aron Kodesh (holy ark).[8]
Before the Jewish people conquered the holy land it was a land that contained spiritual impurities. The name of the land at that time, כנען (Canaaan) stands for כִּנּוֹר נָעִים עִם נָבֶל [9] (A pleasant harp with a lyre) which indicates a mixture of goodness (a pleasant harp) and negativity (נָבֶל /a lyre which is an acronym for לַֽעֲשׂוֹת נְקָמָה בַגּוֹיִם [10] – to take vengeance from the nations).[11] As such, at that time, the physical space of the land was limited to whatever it could contain naturally. When the Jewish people conquered it however, they transformed it to a land of pure holiness which has the ability to “stretch” as explained above.
This is the meaning of the verse כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה וְנָתַתִּי נֶגַע צָרַעַת – “When you come to the land [and you treat it like the land of Canaan by thinking you cannot have guests when, in fact,] which I gave to you as an inheritance [and it therefore always has more room for guests. So as a punishment for this behavior] I will place a plague of tzora’at…”

Gechzai’s Lust for Money
The haftorah of Parshat Tazria[12] (and the story that follows that haftorah) is an example of how lusting after money (which is related to stinginess) led to a person getting tzora’at. (Please note that this year we read the Haftorah for Parshat HaChodesh.) The haftorah relates how, after healing Na’aman, the general of Aram, from his tzora’at, Elisha the prophet refused to accept payment. Elisha wanted to be clear that this healing was a miracle from G-d, and as such no payment to a mere mortal was necessary.[13] This was such a great kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the Divine name) that it caused Na’aman to become a believer in the one G-d.[14]
Elisha’s main disciple at the time was a man by the name of Geichazi. He was a great Torah scholar, who had already behaved inappropriately on several occasions,[15] but the following incident led to his becoming a metzora (leper) and his departure from Elisha and the path of Torah.
Geichazi  was upset that his master Elisha had refused the large payment from Na’aman (ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing). As such he ran after Na’aman and told him that two new students had arrived and that Elisha had sent him to ask for a talent of silver and two changes of clothing. At first Na’aman was suspicious that Geichazi  was lying, so he made him swear that what he said was true. After Geichazi  swore, Na’aman gave him two talents of silver and two changes of clothes, and Geichazi  took these items and hid them in a secret place. When he returned to his teacher, Elisha asked him where he had been, to which he replied that he had not gone anywhere. Elisha than exclaimed, ““Did my spirit not go along [with you] when a man (Na’amah) got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to take money in order to buy clothing and olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves?”[16] (The commentaries explain that he was planning to use the money for these purchases.[17])

The Curse of Elisha
Elisha then cursed Geichazi  and said, “Surely, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Indeed, the verse says that when Gehazi “left his presence, he was snow-white with tzora’at.”[18] The commentaries explain that this does not mean that his descendants forever after would have tzora’at since G-d does not punish descendants for the sins of their ancestors (unless they follow in their ancestors’ wicked footsteps). Rather it means that he and his children who had assisted him in his deceptive act, would have tzora’at for the rest of their lives.[19] Others say that the term ”forever” means until the Yovel year.[20]

For Which Sins Was Geichazi Punished?
The commentaries point to many sins that Geichazi  transgressed which all contributed to his severe punishment.
Some of them were, lying to his teacher (see above), calling his teacher by name,[21] swearing falsely,[22] licentiousness, stinginess and ridiculing the concept of the Resurrection of the dead.[23]

New Students
After Geichazi ’s departure we read that the students of Elisha needed a larger building for their studies. The commentaries explain that until Geichazi’s departure, many people stayed away from Elisha’s study hall as they found Geichazi’s behavior repulsive.[24] Others say that, out of haughtiness, Geichazi  would sit outside during Elisha’s lectures. This set a bad example and caused others to do the same.[25]

Later Appearances
As a metzora (leper), Geichazi  was banished from the city of Shomron, capital of the Northern kingdom. He and his three leprous sons had to live outside of the city gates. The Talmud says that these were the four lepers who discovered that the siege of the Arameans against the city had ended as described in the Haftorah of Parshat Metzora.[26]
G-d arranged for the news that the siege had ended be brought by Geichazi  and his children to show that even sinners have positive traits and, as such, should be encouraged to do teshuvah.[27]
In a later incident we read how Geichazi was conversing with Yehoram, king of Yisrael, and telling him of the miracles of Elisha when the woman whose son had been resurrected from the dead by Elisha came to the king to get assistance in retrieving her field which had been stolen from her.[28]

Elisha Seeks out Geichazi 
Several years later, Geichazi  left the land of Israel and went to live in Aram. The Talmud says that Elisha traveled there to seek him out and convince him to do teshuvah.[29] Unfortunately, Geichazi  refused his overtures, saying that because he had led others astray, his teshuvah would not be accepted. [30] In fact had he trusted his teacher Elisha, Geichazi  could have done teshuvah as it is possible (though with difficulty) to do teshuvah even for such sins.[31]

Elisha Faulted
The Talmud blames Elisha for Geichazi’s not doing teshuvah, saying that Elisha had rejected him too forcefully (“pushed him away with both hands” rather than “pushing him away with one hand and bringing him close with the other”). One of Elisha’s illnesses was considered a punishment for this.[32]

Portion in the World to Come
The Mishnah states that Geichazi  was one of four commoners (as opposed to kings) who had no share in the World to Come.[33]
The Talmud cites a dissenting opinion that Geichazi  did have a portion in the World to Come.[34] Although Geichazi  had sinned grievously, his suffering in this world atoned for these sins.[35]

Some say that Geichazi  was reincarnated in Elisha ben Avuyah, a Talmudic sage who also strayed from the path of Torah. His name, Elisha alludes to the fact that his lack of teshuva was a result of the harsh treatment he received from Elisha.[36]

May Hashem inspire us all to do Teshuvah and to Help Others do Teshuvah!
[1] Erkhin 16a see also Yoma 11b
[3] Aruch on Yoma ibid
[4] On Yoma ibid
[7] Ibid and Yoma 21a
[11] See Derashot Chatam Sofer, vol. 1 17d
[13] See the commentaries who suggest other reasons for Elisha’s refusal to accept the money.
[15] See Talmud Yerushalmy Sanhedrin 10:2 that he discouraged people from studying under Elisha (based on Kings II 6:1), he groped the Shumanit woman (based on Kings II 4:27), and he ridiculed Elisha’s ability to revive the dead (based on ibid verse 31).
[18] Verse 27
[21] See Kings II 8:5. Although that story occurred after Gechazi had tzara’at, it is an indication of his general behavior.
[22] See above and see Erkin ibid that this is one of the sins for which tzara’at is a punishment.
[23] See note 14
[26] See Kings II 7:3 and on
[27] Keren Orah By Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Margaliyot page 159
[28] See Kings II 8:4-5
[29] See ibid verse 7
[30] Some say that he set up magnets so that the calf-like idols made by Yeravam ben Nevat appeared to float above the ground. Others say that he placed a name of G-d in the calf’s mouth which made it appear to speak and say “I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of Egypt.” And, “You shall not have any other gods before me.” (Sotah 47a)
[31] Shem Mishmuel parshat Tazria. See there that trusting his teacher would have corrected his very first sin, see above notes 14 and 20. See Sefer Chassidim (202) that one who caused others to sin can do teshuvah by encouraging those same people to do teshuvah.
[32] Sotah ibid and Sanhedrin 107b
[34] Ibid 104b and 105a
[35] Maharsha on ibid
[36] Kehilat Yaakov and Seder HaDorot in the name of the Megaleh Amukot Remez 217

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach and a Chodesh Tov!

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